What’s Up Down Under?

Australia is a country we know is there, but for most of us in North America it’s rarely in our daily thoughts. That has not been the case for me lately. This month I will lead a small group on a trip ‘down under.’ We are a Vocational Technical Team sponsored by Rotary International District 5060, which stretches 550 miles from Prosser, WA to Clearwater B.C. The two-nation district has 59 Rotary clubs and 2,800 members.

District-9500-map

A Rotary sponsored Vocational Technical Team is a group of professionals who travel abroad to share their knowledge and to learn more about their industries from other professionals. Our team will travel to Rotary District 9500, a large area that covers the state of South Australia and part of the Northern Territory. From the coastal city of Adelaide to the remote outback town of Alice Springs it’s a span of 1,531 kilometers or 951 miles. That’s about the driving distance from Yakima WA to Los Angeles.

On the trip we’ll focus our studies in winemaking and marketing, agri-tourism, viticulture and agriculture practices. We’ll tour vineyards, wineries, orchards, croplands and production facilities plus local attractions. We’ll share best practices with colleagues while also learning from them. In addition, we’ll speak to Rotary clubs about our professions and our communities. Then in May, a team with similar professional interests from Rotary District 9500 will come to our region to learn about our wine and agricultural industries.

Team 2

Here’s a short bio on the team (pictured above, from left to right)

Lynn Bremmer has been involved in the B.C. Wine industry for many years.  She was a technician and assistant winemaker at Andres Wines for 7 years and winemaker at Brights Wines for 12 years. Lynn is the current chair of the B.C. Wine Grape Council. She owns and operates a 2 hectare vineyard in Oliver and is a partner with her husband John in Mount Kobau Wine Services supplying field sampling, analysis and wine making/viticulture services to the B.C. wine industry.   Lynn is interested in presenting on the history of the B.C. wine industry and the movement from hybrid grapes to a non-grape/wine industry to a complete re-vamping of the industry to a premium grape/wine industry, as well as grape research at Summerland Research Centre and University of British Columbia.

Jim Blonde owns a U-Pick orchard and intends to deliver training in growing blueberries, apples, raspberries, plums and pretty much all stone fruit, as well as vegetables and hops. He is keen to learn about water conservation using drip irrigation, crop placement, and tourism promotion using social media and web-based advertising. A native of upstate New York, Jim worked in the Department of Defense and has had a multifaceted career in technology and other fields.

Reto Gebert is a viticulturist from Kelowna, B.C. and has had a passion for grapes since he has been able to pluck the berries off the clusters. He currently is the assistant vineyard manager at the family winery, St. Hubertus Estate Winery. After graduating from high school in 2009 he traveled to Ontario to study in the Winery and Viticulture Technician Program at Niagara College. Working part-time at different vineyards, volunteering at winery events and taking part in the Royal Visit at the college, Reto was able to gain a more hands-on approach to the wine industry and how other regions grow grapes. Reto received his diploma in 2011. Over the past few years he has been hopping around to work in different wine regions from Switzerland to New Zealand.

And then there is me, John Cooper of Yakima, WA.  I’m a member of the Yakima Rotary Club and have been President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism since June 2007.  In my position I’ve developed brand strategies and programs to position the Yakima Valley as a wine, craft beverage and agri-tourism destination. My goal for the trip is to learn new ideas to market wine and agricultural based destinations, community development ideas plus share best practices from our region. As team leader I will assist the group with a planning and coordination efforts on site.

Watch for updates and pictures from the trip. G’Day mate!

John

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Yakima to Host Large Music Conference This Month

Steve Treseler, the author of The Living Jazz Tradition, conducts a workshops to middle school, high school and college educators at the 2014 WMEA conference. Photo by CMA Press.

Steve Treseler, author of The Living Jazz Tradition, conducts a workshop to middle school, high school and college educators at the 2014 WMEA conference. Photo by CMA Press.

The Washington Music Educators Association (WMEA) will hold its 43rd Biennial Conference and All-State Honor Group performances February 11th – 14th at the Yakima Convention Center and numerous other venues around Yakima. Over the course of the weekend, more than 4,000 students, teachers, staff and families will make their way to Yakima for the event.

Included in that figure are 1,200+ All-State and Junior All-State students. In addition, about 1,100 music teachers from around the state will attend 120 sessions for continuing education as well as 15 concerts their students are performing. An additional 1,700 or more family members, friends and staff will be in Yakima for the event.

According to Yakima Valley Tourism, this is the largest convention slated for 2016. “We work on this event for more than a year,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO for Yakima Valley Tourism. “This conference fills hotels for miles and brings significant visitor spending to the Valley.”

There are more than 20 ensembles (Bands, Orchestras, Choirs, Jazz Ensembles, and Percussion Ensembles, etc.) from all over the state. Along with their teachers, students will perform at “Concert Hours” and “Demonstration Sessions” throughout the weekend. To coordinate the programs, WMEA bulks up for the conference to about 80 staff members (from an office staff of six). This group will take care of details from presiding at conference sessions, moving percussion gear around concert sites and making sure that All-State Students are properly fed and rested.

In order to attend events at the conference, people have to be registered or they have to be involved with presenting, performing or staffing. The Junior All-State and the All-State Concerts, however, are open to the public.

The schedule, time and locations of the concerts are listed below:

Friday, February 12th at 3:00 PM

All State Jazz Concert – Yakima Convention Center

Saturday, February 13th at 4:15 PM      

  • Junior All-State Instrumental Concert – Eisenhower High School
  • Junior All-State Choral Concert – Capitol Theatre

Sunday, February 14th at 1:00 PM

  • All-State Bands – Eisenhower High School
  • All-State Orchestras – Capitol Theatre
  • All-State Choirs – Yakima Convention Center

Concert tickets are $20 if purchased in advance, or $25 the day of or at the door. Children grade eight and below are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling 509-853-2787, on the WMEA website at www.wmea.org under 2016 Conference Information, or online at www.ticketswest.com/events/wmea-all-state-concerts/14702/. Tickets will be sold at the door of each concert venue, plus at the Capitol Theatre Box office starting at 11:00am on Friday for Friday’s Jazz Concert at the Yakima Convention Center, and starting at 11:00am on Sunday for the three Large Group Concerts. Tickets to any of the Sunday concerts allow access to all three events that day.

Yakima has been the traditional location for the WMEA State Conference and All-State Honor Groups for more than 20 years. The event is staged in Yakima around President’s Day Weekend every even numbered year. “We always feel special here,” stated WMEA Executive Director Scott Ketron. “The team of folks at the tourism office and hotels that help us manage this event are like family and they know what to do. We value Yakima, its people and our ongoing relationship with the community.”

Yakima Valley Hosts Travel & Lifestyle Media

Spring fam tour

Travel media enjoy a meal at Russillo’s Pizza and Gelato in Yakima WA

Last week we had the honor of hosting eight writers and journalists on a two and half day spring tour of the Yakima Valley. The writers came from New York City, Portland, Vancouver B.C. and metro Seattle and have placed stories in a variety of media outlets including Town and Country, New York Times, Forbes Life and Travel Guide, Fodor’s Travel, OutCity.com, Northwest Travel Magazine, About.com, Real Food Traveler, Foodista, Seattle Kitchen/KIRO Radio, BC Living and Western Living.

The tour had a spring, wine and food theme and allowed participants to experience a number of attractions, food products and beverages. Activities  included hikes in the Cowiche Canyon, massages at Ummelina, sipping wines throughout the valley and great meals including Italian fare at Russillos to a cooking demonstration at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser.

“The writers had a great time meeting the people, cultures and attractions of the region,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “Trips like these help writers craft authentic stories of the Valley.”

The tour was coordinated with our public relations firm Green Rubino of Seattle.